NASA Renames Headquarters to Honor Mary Jackson, Its First Black Woman Engineer

NASA’s Washington DC headquarters building has been renamed after Mary W. Jackson, the first Black woman to work as an engineer for the space agency. An employee of NASA for 34 years, she was one of the many “Hidden Figures” who played an instrumental role in helping American astronauts launch into space in the 1960s.

Jackson was a math teacher, receptionist, bookkeeper, and secretary before a love of science helped her to nab a position in the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory’s segregated West Area Computing Unit, located in Virginia. After two years as one of the research center’s human computers, she obtained special permission to complete a training program among white peers at a segregated high school, subsequently earning her promotion from mathematician to engineer in 1958. Twenty years and numerous pivotal research reports later, she switched into the personnel field, working for Langley’s Federal Women’s Program to help advance the hiring and promotion of women in NASA’s engineering, mathematics, and science positions. A mother of two children, Jackson eventually retired from NASA in 1985 and passed away at the age of 83 in 2005.

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